It is said of Russian author Dostoevsky that he played a little bar game with this friends. Each man would hold the palm of his hand over a candle flame until he could stand it no longer and pulled away. The one who could hold it the longest, won. Dostoevsky was renowned for his ability. When admiring competitors wondered if he didn’t feel pain, he said something like, “Of course I feel pain. The trick is in not minding.”
Running a marathon hurts. Maybe the trick to running one is not minding. “Yah, it hurts. So? Say, could you help me shove this bone back through my thigh and reach that duct tape for me? How’s your momma?”
One of the benefits of maturing as a thinking runner is learning how to plow through killer stuff that would cause a mere mortal’s knees to buckle. But not a runner’s. A runner toughens up on the road, and best of all, is able to carry tolerance for pain of all sorts into real life. Unflinching, we win “candle games” every time. Why? Because we don’t quit.
So how do we actually eliminate the word “quit” from vocabulary? Not easily, but oh so naturally!
First there is DECISION: This is the passive part, where the intellect is engaged. It lays a plan. The runner decides that no amount of exhaustion or pain or despair is sufficient to call a halt to the run. “I won’t quit.”
Then there is CHOICE: This is the active part, where the decision is put into gear. The runner follows through … and runs no matter what. “I am not quittng.” And later, “I didn’t quit.”
The distinction between decision and choice is subtle and Zen-like. But understanding the differences will keep you from looking back on a run that didn’t go your way and wondering, “What just happened?”
Running is about making choices that carry out your decision to tie on your running shoes. If things don’t turn out the way you want, you re-choose—sometimes on a second-to-second basis. Choice is immediate. It’s action. It’s now. You decide to run the marathon—an overarching goal, but you choose to take each step to the finish line. Quitting is not an option.
If you start a marathon with ANY doubt that you will finish, you won’t finish. This comes with an ironclad guarantee.
Okay, enough Wisdom of the Ages, Grasshopper. You’ve thought your running plan over and made your decision. Very nice indeed, but a little too abstract and passive to be truly useful. Now choose, and watch what happens. (You’re gonna love this.)
See you on the trail!